Raise your hand if you’ve ever eaten hospital food… love it? Probably not.
What about lying in a bed with a PICC line and multiple IV bags hanging over your head?
There is a knock at your door, it is the cafeteria worker at your hospital bringing your meal. Double portions for extra calories. You open the lid, it is definitely double portions, but of meatloaf. Say you don’t like meatloaf. Your spouse, parent or caregiver isn’t coming again until tomorrow morning. Your choices are limited. Eat the meatloaf so that you don’t lose any more weight, or order food on a delivery app, beg your busy nurse to go down to the front of the hospital to pick it up and spend money that you do not have saved for this hospitalization.
This is something that many patients that I see in the hospital deal with daily. Food choices may seem simple. The hospital stay includes breakfast, lunch and dinner. Patients with CF have the “upgrade” to double portions to ensure that they are consuming all the calories necessary for their body to fight the infection in their lungs.
A hospital stay can range from 4 days to 21 days depending on severity of the infection and symptoms. Nutrition plays a vital role in daily CF maintenance and how the body recovers from an infection.
The Dining Days program came to the St. Mary’s CF Center in West Palm Beach, Florida from a dedicated CF advocate named Sara. The idea was to form a support program that would serve multiple purposes for people with CF during their hospitalizations. The psychosocial impact of a hand delivered, free, exciting meal to a person in the hospital is unmatched. Life outside of the hospital does not stop just because someone is admitted for treatment. Bills continue to pile up, jobs continue daily, family and friends continue to live their lives. If Piper’s Angels Foundation can just ease the struggle of a hospitalization, why not?
Piper’s Angels Foundation has partnered with our local BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse to offer CF families free meals during their hospitalization. The generosity of BJ’s includes an appetizer, entrée and dessert for the patient and their family.
As the CF Center Social Worker, I take the patient’s order, call it in to BJ’s, pick it up and deliver it in time for dinner at the hospital. It is one of the best parts of my job. No matter how busy I am, how many patients or how much I have to do in a day, being able to bring people a meal of their choice, that puts a smile on their face, is an honor.
It affords me the opportunity to have conversations with patients that differ from my traditional role. I’ve learned about people’s interests, career goals, aspirations and the barriers of talking to “the healthcare worker” or the “CF team” dissipate. It is as though sharing a meal with someone bridges the gap between being a professional who doesn’t get it and makes me appear as more of just a person.
As a Mental Health Professional, I see the psychological impact of a hospitalization on people battling cystic fibrosis. They spend so much of their life doing everything within their control to stay out of the hospital, that when they are sick enough to need IV treatment, it can be quite discouraging. Understanding that no one wants to be in the hospital, having Dining Days as a program to offer CF warriors and their families can be a huge relief. People have to take time away from their lives, their jobs, and their loved ones to seek necessary treatment. This causes financial, emotional and social burdens to say the least. Being able to say to a family, “here is a free meal,” could be the first piece of good news they get during a hospital stay. Piper’s Angels Foundation and BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse help the CF Care Team ease the burden and continue in the fight against cystic fibrosis!
–Megan Casabe, MSW, LCSW, CF Clinical Social Worker